To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Army Medical Corps-tn

7519888

Private

Leonard Walter Knott

Knott-Leonard-Walter-1tn

1916/07/17 - Born Bow, London

Son of Philip Charles and Helen Knott

Occupation Shop Assistant

1939/08/09 - Enlisted

Royal Army Medical Corps

32 Company

 

Service

Posted to Singapore 1939.

Worked in Tanglin Road Military Hospital and then the new Alexander Hospital

1942/02/14 - Was in the Alexander hospital and survived the massacre of patients and staff by Japanese solders

1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered

 

 

Japanese PoW

PoW No. 8072

Japanese Index Card - Side One

Knott-Leonard-Walter-01

Japanese Index Card - Side Two

Knott-Leonard-Walter-02

 

Date

Camp

Commander

1942/05

Krangi, Singapore

Lt-Col. Armitage, RA

1942/11/06

Transported overland to Thailand

Lt-Col. Cubitt, 6th Norfolks

 

in Letter Party ‘L’ - 650 Pows

 

 

29th Train from Singapore to Thailand

 

1942/11/10

Nong Pladuk, Thailand

Lt-Col. Gill, RA

 

New PoW No. I 24268

 

1943/03

Kan’Buri Hospital, Thailand

Lt-Col. Malcolm, RAMC

1944/01

Nong Pladuk, Thailand

Lt-Col. Toosey, RAMC

 

Ubon Camp, Thailand

Maj. Smyth, RAMC

 

New PoW No. I 9921

 

Liberated Ubon, Thailand

 

Repatriation

Chitral-3-tn

1945/10/01 - Boarded the SS Chitral at Rangoon

Letters Home

Edited by: Kathy Knott

LETTER 1
Thailand
13th September 1945

Darling Joan
On Sunday we leave this frightful dump and go to Bangkok - the first step on our eventual journey home. We go by plane to Rangoon and then to India and then home and then 6 weeks leave pending discharge. And thank God for that.

The first tumultuous feeling we had when we heard the war had finished gradually left us owing to the lengthening time before we tasted freedom, we were disappointed in not getting out of here quickly and our ecstasy turned to grumbling but now with the news about moving, the old initial feeling is returning - and it’s terrific.

God, the hundreds of things to see and do, the re-acquaintance (the difficulty I had in spelling that word) with things we always took for granted, newspapers and needles, soap and socks, beds and bread, in fact with everything we call civilisation -  although I know things are radically different - and you Joan. Soon we will see each other - everything must wait until then and I’ll tell you how every day I’ve thought of you and hoped you were safe and happy, Many of your letters came and they meant a lot in the weeks which never seemed to end and we had no contact with outside. I wait for a letter from you welcoming me back into the world but I doubt if I shall get it. I shall, I believe, travel home so quickly once we are started that I will hear you welcome me, and then I know I shall be home.

There are so many things to decide now. Positively I won’t go back to XXXXX, the monotony would drive me crackers. I want to get a job here somewhere, where the sun shines and where there is a something which once experienced, never leaves one. Heavens the thought of an English winter after these years of sunshine freezes me and I have less fat now than I ever had before ” and you know how little I had!

We will talk and talk and look and look, and, dear God, if you haven’t changed, we will have that happiness we promised ourselves, and if fortune is benevolent and grants me my wishes the past 6 years would have served some purpose.

With all my love , Len

 

LETTER 2 
Thailand
23rd September 1945

Dear Joan
We are on the way to Bangkok. This is being written in a bombed Thai town, very little remains of it except an odd tin erection - it’s a pity for the Thais have been very good to us on the trip.

Here they are all gathered around me as I write, looking with fascinated eyes at this awful illegible letter.

We go from Bangkok to Rangoon by air, perhaps tomorrow, and then home.

I’m quite safe. Love , Len

 

LETTER 3
Rangoon (Thailand)
25th September 1945

My darling Joan
This is the second stage of this miraculous journey home ...... remember? The event I used to write to you about 5 years ago and have dreamt about ever since, particularly the past 3 years, and now it’s happening - I think about you incessantly because coming home means you, and always has.

At short notice we left Ubon, Thailand and went to Bangkok, 2 days of hilarious travel, waving cheering Thais, boisterous boozy troops looking like nothing on earth with their ill fitting clothes & bald nuts. (I’ve got no hair, mine was the only camp where those B’s the Nips made us crop it off like themselves)

From Bangkok to Rangoon by Dakota, a pleasant smooth trip. Facetious half comic remarks about “not leaving the plane whilst in motion” and then when it was over “What about a whip round for the driver”.

Now in hospital, a routine procedure and I shan’t be here very long for I’m absolutely OK, then to another camp for the boat home.

I’m revelling in the comfort of civilisation; I look round and wonder, feel awed when I strike a match and amazed that I haven’t lost the knack of using a fork and knife. But I tell myself that I shouldn’t write about these things for it could be boring and like a walk round a hardware store. I savour all these things with profound pleasure, especially the cleanliness, dear God, everything is clean, clean

All my love, Len

 

LETTER 4
SS Chitral
3rd October 1945

My darling Joan,
You know of course from the letter I sent home from Rangoon that I’m on the way home. This is being written on the way to Columbo. It’s an incredible feeling this, this thought and fact of coming home after so long - and I do believe that now for the first time, in writing this letter to you, that I realize just what it means. I get a queer feeling in my spine and something grips my stomach - I sent a letter to your old Harrogate address as soon as I arrived in Rangoon from Bangkok but then the next day I went to the PO in town and found a letter from you coming from Leytonstone, the first I knew that you had changed your address. Your letter was very sweet and I read of your love with immense thanksgiving. You do know, although so little correspondence has come from me that I have never ceased to keep you very close to me and those countless months were made happier and lighter by thoughts of you.

Do you remember those perfect days before I went away? But I tell myself that although they were perfect they were and are in the past, and the only thing which matters now is the future, and my plans about that are infinite. I know you’ll disagree with some of them and label them hair brained (and you’re probably right). My only regret about coming home is that I’ll land in Blighty in the approaching winter and spend my leave in vain attempts to keep warm. If only it would be summer time - we’d go away somewhere for weeks & laze and get you as black as I am. Instead I suppose I’ll have to eat plates of porridge & sugar to thicken my watery blood. And at the moment my hair is 1 inch long. It sticks up like a porcupine - I whack Bay-Rxxxx - a patent American hair growth called “something root” on it and assiduously reapply it every morning but it defies my frantic efforts to make my head fit for humans to look at. More than ever I need some of yours, that very lovely hair you have - is it still the same and you do part it in the centre?

But nothing can stop me coming home, 28 more days at the most, and no complaints, no word of warning or remonstrance.
With all my love Len

 

LETTER 5
SS (Steam Ship) Chitral
Friday 11th October 1945

My darling Joan
This will come to you from Port Suez. We are four days from Colombo in a sea which is like glass. The journey is perfect, peerless weather, a breeze all day long which prevents sweating and a mild benevolent sun. How different from the trip out so very long ago when my thick blood made me sweat and fret and I was going away from you. Bit it is all different now. Every thud of the comforting sound which the engines down below make brings me nearer to you. I’m very well and very happy and I love you ” you know didn’t you? Dear God that life after this will have no difficulties or perplexities. We must make it so.

The days pass, with little incident. I fit into an easy routine, so far having escaped any irksome fatigues. My foot is healed. I potter about, read, sleep, drink tea, watch the sea and write purple passages about it in my diary, and think of you. I see you, watch your movements, the flow of your skirt, you comb your hair, you smile at me, you walk by my side your hand in my pocket and my mind gets more fervid & heated as the hours bring you nearer. The clocks go back an hour. Every four minutes puts another mile between the East and this boat and my feelings are mixed about it. The past three and a half years doesn’t count, but there is most definitely something about the East. I ponder on the fact that I’ve left the poverty of a Nip camp but I’m going home to a slum, I’m changing one type of barrack for another but at least the amenities for keeping clean are better in one, and that is the one I should hate and avoid. At the moment I feel very strongly about starting afresh but I’ve got a sin of weakness taking the easiest path and I’m scared that if I do this I’ll miss everything completely. If only the Gods are kind a little longer to me. What a useless letter this is, why do I never say the things that are deepest in me, that I want you, that everything will be alright if I have you and that I long to kiss your kips again.

With all my love, Len

 

LETTER 6
SS. Chitral
14th October 1945

Darling Joan

Today I realized with a great stock that your birthday had passed and I haven’t wished you many happy returns in my last letter. You mustn’t think anything about this, for years I haven’t known the day or the date, the days have passed in a miasma, one similar to the other. And so you’re 25, my, my Joan, how does it feel, awful isn’t it? This frightful passing of the years, with their indecent haste is horrible. You realise I shall be 30 next year! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I think of that memento I have in my wallet given me when we were of a tenderer age. You were 18. It’s that curl of hair you were very loath to give me. Doesn’t it seem childish now, doesn’t it?

So many things I’ve been forced to relinquish in the change from camp to camp, the interminable Japanese searches, and the ravages of time. Your letters burst from the box in which I keep them, became torn, dirty, indecipherable, and I had to burn them. But I still have some pages with a few stained photographs, and they are all you; you at Eynsford, Tunbrigdge, that very sweet one of you at Brighton beneath the Black Rock and a very dim misty one of you standing on a bank of a river somewhere. I always had to hide these in bamboo in the ground, the Japs had an incredible desire to get hold of photos of English girls and they would have inevitably stolen them. They’ve been with me everywhere. For months things would become very dim in my mind, I couldn’t think about them. It was all too distant and impossible until I had to remind myself of sanity, and the very depths of hopelessness and despair forced me to resurrect these things and instill into myself the hope of better things, of being free, of the English countryside and you with your love and sweetness to me. It it’s finished now, and we’ve had our quota of misery) and repression. I used to think that when I was free again I’d burst myself with frantic endeavour to catch the last delights of 3 years, hardly stop to breathe, to defeat the insidious onset of time, but I now see that it’s those very years which have taught me to stop, to go easy, to breathe steadily, else the grave will be about me because now I’m 30 and you, lovely sweet Joan are 25.

My love Len.

 

1945/10/06 - Columbo

Suez Cannel

Mediterranean

1945/10/18 - Gibraltar

1945/10/28 - The SS Chitral berthed at Southampton

 

Died

30th May 1997

Joan and Len were married for 50 years and died within 6 weeks of each other.

 

Information

Kathy Knott

Ray Withnall (Ubon research)

Ubon Camp - http://www.roll-of-honour.org.uk/Camp_Rolls/Ubon/html/k_database_14.htm

BBC - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/50/a6872150.shtml

KEW:- WO 361/2172, WO 392/25, WO 345/30, WO 361/1955, WO 361/2196, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2069, WO 361/2180,

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